The Painted Desert Sheep originated on Texas game ranches by crossing Mouflon with Rambouillet, Merino, and Texas Blackbelly. The colored varieties of Merino and "Rambo" sheep produced hybrid, spotted individuals first called "Parti-Dalls." The unique term "Painted Desert" was soon coined by hunters wishing to add this colorful sheep to their trophy rooms. Some
Jacob or Navajo-Churro influence was used to produce polycerate (multi-horned) Painted Desert Sheep.
The first impression of an ideal Painted Desert Sheep is of an alert, regal, and athletic animal of obvious Mouflon heritage. It is a nicely colored sheep with a slick, smooth hair coat. Mature rams should have large, uniform horns with a full mane and bib. The nose is Roman shaped, more so in the older ram. The ewes are finer-boned with a distinctly feminine face.
The head of the ram is heavy with the bridge of the nose becoming more Roman as the ram matures. The ewe's head is feminine. The muzzle is wide, and the lips firm with a well-formed philtrum. Incisor teeth must meet the dental pad.
Depending on the sheep's body color, the eyes may range from light to dark brown. Light or white base-coated sheep may have yellow eyes. Some champagne-colored sheep may have amber (not red) eyes. Some sheep with Jacob influence may have blue or "china" eyes. Entropion (inverted) or split eyelids are discriminated against.
The ears, when held alert, are carried parallel to the ground or slightly above parallel. They should not be lazy or floppy. Elf and Gopher ears are allowed. The tips of natural and elf ears should be pointed and not rounded unless due to injury.
At this time, the Painted Desert Sheep is known primarily for the ram's ability to grow a trophy class set of horns. They are in demand for stocking exotic hunting leases. These sheep have been crossed with other breeds such as Merino, Rambouillet, Jacob, and Navajo Churro to improve the horn and reach trophy class quicker. Rams will have different shaped horns according to the influence of other breeds. Tight horn curls growing close to the head are indicative of Barbados blood and can cause problems if the horns are close enough that they grow into the face. True Barbados Sheep are a polled breed and cross-breeds often have poor horns. Although there are sheep in the registry with polled ancestry, horns are preferred. Mouflon influence is shown by large supracervical (sweeping out and curving behind the neck), heart-shaped horns, or homonymous (sweeping outward in a spiral) horns. Horns should be well-balanced and symmetrical. You will see some magnificent horns on these sheep and even beautifully matched sets of four horns (or more). Ewes don't have horns unless they are a result of a cross where the ewes are horned (Mouflon or Jacob, for instance).
Rams should be well horned, whether of two-horned or polycerate breeding, uniform and with lots of "air" between horn and face. Ideally, the lower curl of the horn should at least be at the level of the jaw. In the polycerate types, each horn should have its own base. Fused horns are not desirable.
Most ewes are hornless. Scurs are permitted in ewes, and some ewes may be horned. The ram must be horned. Polled rams and polled blood are disqualifying traits.
The neck of the ram is strong and well muscled, tying in smoothly to the chest. The mane should be thick and luxurious with the front bib reaching to the knees or below. Rams may shed most or all of their mane in the summer. Rams that are suspected to be maneless, especially not sporting a mane in fall and winter, and therefore not of Mouflon heritage, are highly discriminated against. Ewes should have a slender, though well formed, neck. Some ewes may have a slight mane.
The neck should be attached to a well formed chest. The shoulders are laid on flat and are well muscled. The forelegs, whether viewed from the front or the side, should be straight with a well muscled forearm and strong pasterns. Legs should not be toed in or out. Pasterns should not be weak and low to the ground.
The hindquarters should be well muscled with a long, sloping rump. The hindlegs, whether viewed from the rear or the side, should be straight with well muscled hip, gaskin and strong pasterns. Legs should not be cow-hocked or sickle hocked.
The hooves should be well-formed, trimmed, with no signs of foot rot or deformity due to neglect.
The body should be deep and wide with well-sprung ribs and "roominess" in ewes due to the tendency for multiple births.
The withers are strong and higher than the back. The back should be level with a smooth tie-in from the withers and into the rump. It should not be weak or swayed. The rump, or croup, should have a long, smooth slope and not a short or "chopped-off" appearance.
The bottomline should be deep and not tucked-up in the flanks or wasp-waisted.
Since the Painted Desert Sheep is of Mouflon heritage, the shorter the tail, the better. It should taper slightly to the tip. Overly long tails reaching to or past the hocks is undesirable, as is a cylindrical tail. Tails should be kept natural and not docked.
The pelage of the Painted Desert Sheep is double-coated with a slick hair coat and a short wool outer coat grown in late fall. The short wool is cast naturally in the spring. These sheep should sport a short, clean hair coat in spring and summer. Sheep that do not cast their wool are a disqualification. The mane on the rams may start from the withers or even mid-back and the front bib is full, thick and long. Maneless rams are highly undesirable. The hair and wool will have a slight amount of lanolin.
The characteristic that sets these sheep apart from other breeds is their colorful markings. They are often marked in a combination of colors and can be tri- or quad-colored. Some individuals have white markings on a dark body; others have dark spots on a white or roan body. They may have spots within spots. Patterns can be distinct with oval or splashed markings (much like the Tobino and Overo patterns of the paint horse) frosted, or marbled where the colors just blend together. Patterns may be highly marked while others have only minimal markings. Sheep with Jacob influence may have blue eyes.
The Painted Desert Sheep may be any color, with numerous color combinations and patterns possible. They may be dark with light patterns or light with dark patterns. They may be splashed, roan, or have oval spots, and may have ticking. Minimally marked sheep are accepted as long as the color shows in the registration photos. Bright colors are preferred over washed-out colors. Some sheep may have badger faces (striped faces).
As a whole, the Painted Desert Sheep is not a large sheep, but there are individual sheep on the higher end of the height and weight range. Ewes range from 60 to 120 pounds and from 21 to 25 inches at the withers. Rams range from 75 to 200 pounds and may be 30 inches or more at the withers. The size of these sheep varies due to the influence of other breeds.
Faults include crooked legs, malformed teeth and/or jaws, excessively long tails, docked tails, sparse manes in rams, fused horns and horns that are close or growing into the face.
Sheep excluded from registration are polled rams, sheep with polled breeding (true Barbados, Katahdin, St. Croix, Dorper, etc), rams with scurs, sheep that are wooled, sheep with more than 1/8 wool breeding, monorchidism, cryptorchidism, hermaphroditism, defects of the eyelid, and sheep not showing color in registration photos.